DCA’s Letter to the Superintendent:
Dear Superintendent Dr. Smith,
I am writing on behalf of the parents of Darnestown Elementary School (DES) students and the entire Darnestown community regarding the upcoming decision to redistrict boundaries for Northwest, Clarksburg, and Seneca Valley high schools, as well as their feeder middle schools.
The Darnestown Civic Association (DCA) and the leadership of the Darnestown Elementary School PTA have been working collaboratively throughout the commissioned study that began earlier this year. Together, we have actively engaged our community and been educating them on the process and proposed options through email, Facebook, and various meetings. To gain quantitative sentiment, we conducted a formal online survey of our residents to understand their desires and priorities as aligned with the policy factors laid out in the study – demographics, school utilization, and geography. The DCA and DES PTA also understand the value of each of these factors and believe it’s critical that the final boundary decisions strike a proper balance for the success of all students at the impacted schools.
The DCA and DES PTA strongly believe that Option # 9 strikes that balance to best accomplish the stated goals and we urge you to recommend this option to the Board of Education next month.
Our support for Option #9 is based on the stated policy factors and founded on forecasted data from the study:
- Decreases the FARMS rate at all three high schools by several percentage points
- Decreases the FARMS rate significantly at Neelsville MS from 67% to 60%
- Comparing the projected gap between the highest race/ethnic % and lowest race/ethnic % (for African American, Asian, Hispanic, and White) at each of the three high schools (6.7% gap at CHS, 21.4% gap at SVHS, and 7.7% gap at NWHS), the largest difference between those gaps across the three schools is 14.8% in Option #9 – this is consistent with the 14.7% average among of the presented options
- All students reassigned from NWHS to SVHS can still walk to SVHS
- Because both Gibbs ES and Daly ES are close to SVHS, re-alignment with SVHS would result in limited transportation impacts
- Reduces 5-year projected utilization at CHS to 109% (one of the lowest for CHS of the proposed options)
- Reduces 5-year projected utilization at NWHS to 117% (fair considering future relief from the planned Crown high school)
- Reduces 5-year projected utilization at SVHS to 106% (consistent with CHS)
- Fully utilizes and optimally balances utilization at all feeder middle schools
The DCA and DES PTA also strongly oppose any change to our current matriculation path. As you know, the only option currently presented that impacts DES students’ current path (Option #4) would send DES students to MLK MS and SVHS. Our opposition is based on geography and the importance and value of kids attending the schools closest to their community. This is directly supported by our resident survey, in which the DCA objectively presented all of the information from the first set of proposed options and sought resident input in mid-March.
We received 210 responses within the first 10 days and approximately 66% of those had a child at NWHS, LPMS, or DES (or one that would be attending DES).
We asked 3 questions:
- 209 out of 210 respondents preferred the current matriculation path over Option #4
- Residents were asked to rank their priorities in order of importance – the following are the results specific to the stated policy factors:
- Priority 1 – Geography (by a wide margin)
- Priority 2 – Facility utilization
- Priority 3 – Demographic diversity
- 209 out of 210 felt “this was an issue for which the DCA should take a position and help represent Darnestown’s interests based on the community’s consensus”.
The DCA and DES PTA have taken diligent steps to engage our parents and residents on this important decision so that we can effectively represent them. We have also worked closely with our school cluster and painstakingly reviewed the presented options against the stated policy factors to ensure that we are not just looking out for our best interests but the best interests of all impacted students. We appreciate the opportunity to have our voice heard and urge you again to recommend Option #9.